Racism and Sexism

Plenary on 2003-12-10
Session date: 
December 10, 2003
Question By: 
Valerie Shawcross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Toby Harris


What can be done to a) prevent the recruitment of overt racists into the police service and b) Change the culture amongst some junior officers which it is still alleged to be negative towards women and BME colleagues? .


Answer for Racism and Sexism

Answer for Racism and Sexism

Answered By: 
Toby Harris

When the Police Authority discussed the BBC programme The Secret Policeman at the Authority meeting, tellingly, particularly for black members of the Authority, revelations in that programme would hardly have come as a surprise to the country's black communities. I think it was unanimously shared that there was a sense of outrage and disgust and a renewed determination that racism must be eradicated wherever it is found in the MPS.

I know that the Commissioner is equally passionate about this. Under his leadership the Met has made significant progress in addressing the findings of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. Following The Secret Policeman he has announced the formation of a task force under the leadership of Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur to conduct a critical review of the MPS' approach to diversity in its broadest sense. The first priority of that is a review of the recruitment procedures and systems, including a selection process and integrity testing within that. MPA members have already suggested a look at some radical tools for detecting hidden racist tendencies as part of the interview process. My other Deputy Chair, David Muir, has already spent some days up at Hendon in a personal fact-finding role and intends to spend more time there.

Secondly, the group that has been established will seek to assess what is currently being undertaken within the MPS around diversity, complaints, fairness at work and other related issues, including the support given to staff who report offensive or inappropriate behaviour.

Thirdly, in consultation with MPA members and stakeholders it will identify issues that are causing concern leading to an immediate short, medium and long-term action plan. The findings will shape the MPS Diversity Strategy to be presented to the MPA for approval next year.

Turning to the national scene, as a result of regular HMIC inspections there is already a major review of recruit and probationer training. The new training programme includes a significant emphasis on diversity. Diversity is a theme running through the entire recruit/probationer training programme and consideration of the implications for diversity is built into every part of the course. There is now a national police recruitment standard that is used for police recruitment and is value free. It includes independent assessors for the local community who participate in the assessment process, an initiative pioneered by the MPS. All trainers receive training in personal awareness, multicultural Britain, legislation and policy. How this training can be extended and made more effective, and the process for selecting trainers, are two areas members are keen for the task force to explore further.

On the issue of police culture, there is a range of programmes in place to celebrate and embrace diversity as a strength. All police officers and police staff have received two days' community and race relations training and this work has been built upon with a diversity training programme dealing with gender, faith and religion, disability, sexual orientation and age.

The recent MPA independent evaluation of the MPS community and race relations training identified some inefficiencies with the training and made a number of recommendations to improve future training programmes. One of the critical areas to address is building up the confidence and skills of first and second-line supervisors to deal with fairness-related issues when they happen. In turn, this will improve the confidence of officers and staff to report themselves as victims of harassment or inappropriate behaviour.

The MPA has worked with the MPS Development and Organisational Improvement Team, catchily known as `DO-IT', on specific strands of work addressing these issues to ensure that the MPS culture is one that welcomes and promotes diversity. The gender agenda for women and specific development and retention programmes for black and minority ethnic police officers in their first few years of service are providing support at a crucial stage of a police officer's service. The work in these areas will continue until we are completely satisfied that the calibre and integrity of recruits and officers achieve the highest professional and personal standards that we demand and that no-one is victimised after they join for any reason whatsoever. .